US 7707002 B2
The present invention concerns measures for the space-optimized determination of printing-related measured values. With the aid of a tone value and/or color gradient in a control patch and a suitable measuring device, it is possible to obtain, in a smaller amount of space, adequate or even detailed information about the printing process. Correcting values necessary for the automatic control of the printing operation can be determined on the basis of the information thus obtained, which can be also be continuously acquired due to the space-optimized tone value and/or color gradients.
1. A measuring unit for determining a printing-related measured value from at least one of a tone value gradient and a color gradient of a control patch printed on a printing medium, the measuring unit comprising:
a photosensitive sensor that can resolve a position in the control patch in at least one direction, said sensor producing image data;
a central processing unit for evaluating the image data from the photosensitive sensor;
a measuring device for determining a printing-related measured value at a measuring point in the control patch and determining a position of the measuring point; and
a memory for storing the measured values,
wherein the printing-related measured value and the position of the measuring point are determined during a printing operation of a printing press.
2. The measuring unit of
3. The measuring unit of
4. The measuring unit of
5. The measuring unit of
6. The measuring unit of
the photosensitive sensor can resolve a position in two directions; and
the measuring device determines a matrix of measured values in horizontal and vertical directions, and determines a mean value of the measured values in the vertical direction, so that a position-dependent series of averaged measured values is obtained.
7. The measuring unit of
8. The measuring unit of
9. The measuring unit of
10. The measuring unit of
11. A method for determining a printing-related measured value of a printing press, the method comprising:
providing a printed medium having a control patch printed by the printing press with at least one of a tone value gradient and a color gradient;
determining a printing-related measured value from at least one of said tone value gradient and said color gradient of said control patch; and
determining the position in the control patch of a measuring point associated with said measured value,
wherein the steps of determining the measured value and determining the position are performed during a printing operation of a the printing press.
12. The method of
13. The method of
determining a series of measured values as a function of the position of the measuring point.
14. The method of
determining a matrix of measured values in horizontal and vertical directions; and
determining a mean value of the measured values in the vertical direction, so that a position-dependent series of averaged measured values is obtained.
15. The method of
16. The method of
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1. Field of the Invention
The present invention concerns a device and a method for determining printing-related measured values from a gradient patch printed as a control patch and a corresponding computer program.
2. Description of the Related Art
In the control of printing processes, it is necessary to determine quality-relevant parameters as often as possible in order to manage the printing process according to the determined parameters. Quality-relevant parameters are all parameters that can describe the reproduction of the subject on the medium to be printed, e.g., paper. In particular, it is important to check the reproduction of chromatic and achromatic inks. Examples of quality-relevant parameters are therefore the degree of area coverage or screen tone value that has been achieved, the tone value increase, or the full-tone density achieved with an ink. To determine these parameters, in industrial printing, e.g., in offset printing with a rotary press, print control strips are printed during the printing operation along with the actual printing job. To determine some quality-relevant parameters, for example, the screen tone value or the full-tone density of an ink, control patches are printed by the printing press as part of print control strips.
A control patch is an area printed on the printing medium and contains an image area. In order, for example, in the prior art, to check the screen tone value, several control patches are arranged in a row to form a control patch strip, and the control patches represent a possibly different percentage of area coverage. Due to limited space, as few control patches as possible are usually printed on the prior-art print control strip. For example, the use of three control patches in the form of a tone value wedge with a degree of area coverage of 25%, 50%, and 75% is known. Test charts for determining the tone value increase generally consist of these tone value wedges reproduced in the given process color. However, the test charts known from the prior art allow only imprecise measurement of the tone value increase. In accordance with the prior art, to obtain a more precise measurement over the entire tone value range, the space requirement that would be necessary for exact determination of the tone value increase would increase considerably.
On the basis of the evaluation of the quality-relevant parameters, e.g., the screen tone value or the full-tone density of an ink, the technical personnel can carry out adjustment steps on the printing press to optimize the printing result. These adjustment steps can be automatically carried out in the same way by a suitable device. Customary adjustment steps on an offset press involve metering of the ink and water.
The relationship between quality-relevant parameters and adjustment steps is explained below on the basis of the example of the full-tone density of an ink. The full-tone density of an ink is measured by densitometry, i.e., the optical density of an ink is determined in a control patch. The optical density is an important characteristic in the printing process, which is directly related (almost linearly in certain subdomains) to the ink layer thicknesses transferred in the printing process, as
Some measurement data of quality-relevant parameters, e.g., the tone value increase, are fed back to the prepress phase in order to achieve control of the printing process. The measurement data are processed in the prepress phase, e.g., into correction curves or an ICC (International Color Consortium) color profile, i.e., generally speaking, they are used in computational steps of the prepress phase.
To determine the parameters for preparing the ICC color profile, the space requirement is considerable for printing technology, since test charts for preparing an ICC color profile normally have a large number of control patches, including not only control patches with the given primary colors but also a great variety of control patches with mixed colors. In this regard, it can be said that the more colors are measured, i.e., the more control patches are available, the more exactly the ICC color profile can be prepared. However, to realize the best possible utilization of the printing press, it is necessary to cover the largest possible portion of the printed area with the actual printing job. The present invention arose from the conflicting interests that have been described, i.e., on the one hand, improved qualitative evaluation of the printing process by the largest possible number of control patches and, on the other hand, the necessity of saving printed area.
Accordingly, an object of the invention is to provide possible means of determining quality-relevant parameters in the printing process as precisely as possible and with control patches arranged on the printing medium in a way that optimizes space requirements, so that the determination can be made inexpensively.
In accordance with a first aspect of the invention, a measuring unit is provided for determining a printing-related measured value from a tone value and/or color gradient of a control patch. Printing-related measured values are understood to be, for example, measured values such as full-tone density or screen tone value. In this regard, depending on the type of measured value, either a tone value gradient or a color gradient is to be used. In accordance with the invention, a control patch is understood to be a well-defined region in which a gradient is printed. This region is usually provided in a print control strip. However, it is also possible to define a certain region of the subject as a region suitable for a control patch. This can be realized, on the one hand, by a suitable analysis of the subject and, on the other hand, by a systematic incorporation of a control patch into the subject. A gradient is basically understood to mean a transitionless gradient, but a gradient-like control patch is also conceivable, which arranges different tone values or colors in a row in a graduated way, wherein the tone values or colors are so closely graduated that a gradient-like impression is obtained, at least in some subdomains.
The measuring unit has a photosensitive sensor that is position-resolving in at least one direction, a central processing unit, a measuring device for determining a printing-related measured value, and a memory for storing measured values. In accordance with the invention, the measuring device determines not only a printing-related measured value but also a position of a measuring point associated with the measured value.
An example of a position-resolving sensor that can be used is a CCD chip. The only important consideration in the choice of a sensor is that sufficient accuracy of resolution is achieved. An accuracy of resolution of greater than 0.2 mm is regarded as especially advantageous. A central processing unit or CPU is needed to evaluate the data acquired from the position-resolving sensor. Accordingly, a PC can also be used for the data processing, but the use of a digital signal processor integrated in the measuring unit as a compact measuring instrument is preferable for the hardware realization of the measuring unit of the invention. In addition, the measuring unit also has at least one memory, which, for one thing, can temporarily store the data from the sensor and, for another, can store the computational results of the measuring device. The measuring device can be functionalized by means of a computer program, and for each printing-related measured value it also determines the position of the measuring point. If, for example, the density is determined in the gradient patch at a point by means of the measuring unit in the form of a densitometer, the measuring device is additionally able to reference the position of this point to a previously determined point. This common reference point for the measuring points is preferably the left limit, i.e., a starting point of the gradient patch. This measure, i.e., the determination of measuring point position and measured value, makes it possible to form a position-dependent series of measured values. A function can then be fitted to this series, e.g., by means of the least squares method. Printing-related information, e.g., the tone value increase (TVI) can then be derived from the function obtained in this way. In the case of the tone value increase, it is possible, for example, to obtain a more precise computation without the need for more control patches. Accordingly, the system of the invention makes it possible to obtain more precise measurement results with a smaller space requirement and thus at lower expense for the printing operation.
A refinement of the invention provides for the use of a photosensitive sensor that is position-resolving in two directions. Therefore, the measuring device determines a matrix of measured values in the vertical and horizontal directions. In order to obtain a more easily handled amount of data for further computations, the mean value of the measured values in the vertical direction is determined. The measuring device thus computes a series of values consisting of a mean value of all vertical measurements at a horizontal position. An average value that is more reliable for the evaluations is obtained by this measure. A suitable function is then approximated to the series of measured values obtained in this way to make it possible to draw conclusions about the printing process by means of a thorough analysis of this function.
The functional analysis can consist, for example, in determining a point of inflection of the function. On the basis of the position of the inflection point, it is possible, e.g., in the case of the determination of the tone value increase, to determine the position of an abrupt change in tone value. If, for example, a gradient patch with screen tone values of 0 to 100 percent is used, it is possible in this way to make an exact determination of the percent screen tone density at which the abrupt change in tone value occurs. The position of the abrupt change in tone value then makes it possible to draw conclusions about the printing process. For example, an abrupt change in the tone value in the vicinity of the 100 percent screen tone density mark on the gradient patch could mean that somewhat too little fountain solution is being used. This information can then be used in an adjustment step, which, for example, could also take the form of an automatic control. Furthermore, many other functional analyses are possible, such as the slope of the function at the point of inflection. Thus, in accordance with the invention, it is a question, generally speaking, of being able to draw conclusions about the printing process from the analysis of the function.
In accordance with another refinement of the first aspect of the invention, a measuring unit is provided which determines the ink acceptance behavior for each measured value of the series of measured values, for if the measurement is based on a color gradient in the control patch, it is possible to determine a certain color at the individual horizontal positions of the color gradient in advance of the measurement. The measuring device now expects a certain color at each discrete horizontal position. The color densities of the inks are determined, and thus the ink acceptance behavior can be determined by computational methods known from the prior art, as long as it is known which of the inks was printed first in the case of overprinting. Here again, the determined ink acceptance can be compared with a desired value, so that it becomes possible to output a result signal or control signal to appropriate actuators. Furthermore, measured values for generating an ICC profile can be obtained from the measured values, obtained as described above, of one or more control patches that show a gradient or at least partially have a gradient-like form.
Due to the fact that the control patches on the printing medium require less space, which is realized by virtue of the possibility of using gradient patches, a print control strip with smaller control patches of the printing medium in accordance with the invention can be simultaneously printed during the printing operation, which results in space and cost savings for the printing operation. The system of the invention makes it possible to realize automatic control, e.g., for metering fountain solution, by means of the measuring device, which can also be realized in the form of a computer program.
In accordance with the invention, the required gradient limits can be varied as a function of the parameters to be measured. If the gradient patch is a screen tone value gradient, then it is possible, for example, for the determination of the abrupt jump in tone value, to use a high screen tone value gradient range, say, between 80% and 100%. The reason for this is that, at a high tone value, i.e., at a relatively small uncovered area, the supplying of the uncovered area with fountain solution becomes critical, since if there is too little fountain solution, it is precisely the small spaces between the dots that are no longer adequately supplied. Consequently, the fountain solution will no longer reach all areas of the uncovered area, and thus areas that are not actually intended for printing are also covered with ink. An abrupt jump in tone value occurs in the tone value gradient of the control patch. The exact position of the jump in tone value can be read in the tone value gradient.
If, for example, the tendency towards smearing during printing is to be determined, i.e., if it is to be determined whether dot closure occurs during printing, an intermediate tone value range of, for example, 40-60% makes sense. In addition, it is effective to adapt the tone value or color gradient of the control patch in such a way that the dot shapes are adapted to the printing-related measured value to be measured. For example, if dot closure during printing is to be determined, it is advisable to select dot shapes that are especially susceptible to dot closure. For example, they could be squares or rhombi that meet at the vertices.
In accordance with another aspect of the invention, a method is provided, which, in a control patch of the invention, determines both a measured value and a position value for a measuring point of the measured value. To be able to measure with position resolution, a control patch in accordance with the invention is recorded by means of a camera. The printing-related measured value to be determined, for example, the percent area coverage in the case of the determination of the tone value, is measured from the various image sectors of the camera. In addition, however, a determination is also made of the position of each image sector that is viewed and thus the position of the image sector in the gradient to be evaluated in the control patch. With a camera image, the number of viewed image sectors can be varied, so that the amount of information acquired, adapted to the desired measurement, can be increased. If a camera image is not used, the amount of information can also be increased by reducing the distance between the individual measurements. The direction of the gradient in the control patch can be oriented at any desired angle to the printing direction. Moreover, both linear and nonlinear gradient forms are conceivable. The geometric form in which a gradient is arranged in the control patch can be varied in any desired way.
In accordance with a refinement of the method of the present invention, the position values of the measuring points are determined relative to the position of the control patch. If the entire control patch is provided with a gradient, a relationship between a position of the measuring point in the gradient and the measured value measured at the measuring point is obtained with respect to at least one limit of the control patch. This relationship can be represented in a graph by plotting the measured values over the measuring point on a Cartesian coordinate system. To be able to describe the series of measured values that has been obtained in an approximate way by a function, it is useful to perform a fit or a parameter estimate. Conclusions about the process status can then be drawn from the form of the fitted function. In the printing of a tone value gradient up to the full tone, a phase transition can be seen in the function. Starting at the phase transition, the uncovered regions between the dots become filled in, and full tone is printed. In this regard, in accordance with the present invention, it is a matter of the behavior of the function in the region of the phase transition of the fitted function, which has a steeper slope compared to the remainder of the course of the function. The phase transition represents a region in the course of the function that responds especially sensitively to specific process parameters, e.g., the metering of fountain solution. The appearance of the function in this region allows us to draw conclusions about the printing process and especially about the metering of fountain solution.
The determination of the measured values is made during the printing operation of a printing press. Instead of the gradient-like control patches, it is equally possible to use a control strip with gradient-like gradations that consists of control patches with minimal or no distance between the control patches. The number of control patches can be varied according to the desired amount of information. Preferably, a control patch is then smaller than the measuring dot for determining the measured value. To determine the measuring point values in the method of the invention, cameras are generally used for image acquisition. CCD surface chips or CMOS surface chips are especially suitable for this purpose. The acquired image data of the camera is transmitted to an image analysis unit. The aforementioned function of the measured values is determined in the image analysis unit. The aforementioned printing-related measured values can be, for example, a tone value or a colorimetric value.
The tone value function can be used in a series of process parameters. The process parameters concern, on the one hand, the material that is used in the printing press and, on the other hand, the printing conditions during printing in the printing press. By material is meant the blanket, printing ink, printing plate, printing paper, fountain solution, and other printing aids, such as printing oil and printing pastes. Printing conditions are understood to mean especially the conditions in the printing press. The tone value is affected especially by the entities full-tone coloration, compression, press temperature, and the metering of fountain solution.
Generally speaking, correcting variables for the automatic control of the printing operation can be determined from all of the determined measured values. For some measured values, feedback of the measured values to the prepress phase is useful, so that current conditions in the printing press can already be taken into consideration during the processing of the printing job data. In particular, e.g., the amount of fountain solution can be influenced to achieve automatic control of the tone value increase during the printing operation. However, other boundary conditions of the printing process can also be observed, so that, for example, a printing plate diagnosis can be performed by determining a jump in tone value in a low area coverage range of a screen tone value gradient.
Other objects and features of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood, however, that the drawings are designed solely for purposes of illustration and not as a definition of the limits of the invention, for which reference should be made to the appended claims. It should be further understood that the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale and that, unless otherwise indicated, they are merely intended to conceptually illustrate the structures and procedures described herein.
Conclusions about process status can be drawn from the functional pattern in the phase transition, e.g., by determining the point of inflection and slope of the function in this region. The tone value range shown in
The tone value gradient that is shown in
Thus, while there have shown and described and pointed out fundamental novel features of the invention as applied to a preferred embodiment thereof, it will be understood that various omissions and substitutions and changes in the form and details of the devices illustrated, and in their operation, may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit of the invention. For example, it is expressly intended that all combinations of those elements and/or method steps which perform substantially the same function in substantially the same way to achieve the same results are within the scope of the invention. Moreover, it should be recognized that structures and/or elements and/or method steps shown and/or described in connection with any disclosed form or embodiment of the invention may be incorporated in any other disclosed or described or suggested form or embodiment as a general matter of design choice. It is the intention, therefore, to be limited only as indicated by the scope of the claims appended hereto.